Jesus is warning us, obviously. But check it out, he's also indicating that, perhaps for at least some, eternal damnation isn't their fate.
Catholics believe that when we die, we go to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. Purgatory is a way for those who died in God's Grace and friendship to be purified before entering Heaven. You can go straight to Heaven if you're already pure when you die. That's a pretty special category of people. Well, you could get lucky. You could be martyred. (Sorry to be such a cynic. I just think most of us do not die clean enough for Heaven. But what do I know?)
Think about it; if nothing unclean can get into Heaven (Rev21:27), and hardly any of us die completely clean, Heaven would be a pretty empty place if there was no Purgatory. We need a way to "wipe our feet" and generally spruce up our souls before entering the Kingdom of God. Yes?
I guess we can't really understand what Purgatory is or how it works, but at least once in the Bible it's likened to fire:
"That Day will test the quality of each man's work. If the building of a man has raised on this foundation still stands, he will receive his recompense; if a man's building burns, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as one fleeing through fire." 1Cor.3:13-15
This passage cannot refer to the fire of Hell or the soul could not flee it. What is it if not Purgatory. I know the Bible doesn't use that word, but it also doesn't use the word "Trinity" and a mess of other words we use these days to name Christian beliefs.
If there is no Purgatory, what is this "prison" Jesus went to after he died on the cross? "It was in the spirit also that he went to preach to the spirits in prison." (1Peter3:19)
Here's a link to an article about Purgatory and includes evidence that it was a belief of early Christians:
John Martignoni has a great talk on Purgatory at the Bible Christian Society.
I grew up with the concept of Purgatory and praying for the dead is something that comes naturally to me. I am not familiar with all of the arguments against it. In fact, I only recently learned that not all Christians pray for their dead. I thought it was universal, but I guess if you think there is no Purgatory, you think there is no point in praying for the dead. The souls in Heaven don't need our prayers and the ones in Hell are beyond help. But the early Christians did pray for their dead. I don't know the reason some of us stopped the practice.
Questions? Answers? Comments?